Five Interesting Discoveries in Ohio State's Release of Documents Related to the Zach Smith and Urban Meyer Investigation

By Dan Hope and Kevin Harrish on August 28, 2018 at 5:11 pm
Five things we learned from Wednesday's documents release.

Ohio State released several new documents relevant to the investigation of Urban Meyer and Zach Smith on Tuesday afternoon.

The released documents include hundreds of pages of emails, text message conversations, photographs and other bits of evidence the investigative committee gathered during its two-week investigation.

Most of what those documents revealed was covered in the key findings released by the investigative committee on Wednesday, but Tuesday's document release led to a few interesting revelations, which we detail below.

Meyer met with team Thursday

While Meyer has been away from the Ohio State football team since Aug. 1, he was allowed to meet with the players and coaches last Thursday afternoon – one day after the university announced his three-game suspension – “in order to apologize to the team,” according to an email to Meyer from Susan Basso, the senior vice president of Ohio State’s office of human resources.

In a separate email sent to Meyer on Sunday, Basso outlined the specific terms of Meyer’s suspension.

“As you know, President Drake, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, determined that you did not take sufficient management action regarding Zach Smith and have not, in the handling of certain matters, upheld the high values of Ohio State.  The resulting disciplinary actions set forth below are designed to be fair, just, and appropriate, and to provide an opportunity to learn from past mistakes to make our program and university stronger and better moving forward.

To begin, this will confirm that effective August 22, 2018, you are suspended from performing any duties in your position as Head Football Coach through September 2, 2018. As a result, you should not attend any practices, meetings, other official events, or otherwise appear in any official capacity; have any communications with staff, student-athletes, recruits, or others; or otherwise conduct any business related to your role for this time period.

Beginning September 3, 2018, you may resume your duties as Head Football Coach with the exception that you are not permitted to perform any duties at all for the 24-hour period around game days on September 1, 8 and 15th.  You also may not be present at pre-game activities or the game itself.

In addition, you will forgo six weeks of compensation in connection with your suspension.”

During the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference on Tuesday, Day declined to discuss the specifics of Thursday’s meeting with Meyer, citing as a private matter, but said the team was glad to have the opportunity to see him.

“Those meetings are kind of private with our team, and I think that’s probably a good question for when Coach gets back next week,” Day said. “But I will tell you, obviously, the guys were happy to see him. Shoot, I was happy to see him, because we’re used to seeing each other every day, and so I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks, and that was good. And there was a lot of hugs, and I know Coach was really happy to see the guys.”

Title IX Coordinator asks, “What would we do if this was a player?”

In a handwritten note from Oct. 30, 2015 – four days after Powell Police were dispatched to Zach and Courtney Smith’s home, and Courtney alleged that “she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the suspect” – former Ohio State deputy athletic director Miechelle Willis, who was the university’s Title IX Coordinator For Athletics at the time, asked a question that many have asked over the past month about the lack of discipline that Zach faced:

“What would we do if this was a player?”

Below that, Willis wrote “entitled to due process,” and “restrict now (no recruiting, no media).” Below that, Willis wrote “when/if charges filed we take action,” with a note below that suggesting Zach would have been placed on paid administrative leave if charges were filed. Ultimately, charges were never filed against Zach after the 2015 incident.

In Willis’ notes, she wrote on Oct. 29 that Ohio State chief of police Craig Stone received a call from Powell Police informing him of the investigation against Zach. Willis wrote that she informed Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who called Zach, and also talked to Meyer and Ohio State assistant athletic director of communications Dan Wallenberg.

Willis also noted that Gene Smith told Zach Smith not to call, contact or visit Courtney Smith, and to have someone else pick up his kids from her. Later, Willis wrote that “Gene called Zach back to ask him why he called her,” and “Zach said that he did not call her.”

Willis also noted that a Powell Police detective called Ohio State director of football operations Brian Voltolini as part of his investigation on Oct. 30.

Meyer's 2017-18 performance review

The documents released Tuesday also included Meyer’s performance review (starting on page 38 of this PDF) for the 2017-18 academic year. In his self-evaluation for the year, Meyer evaluated that his performance met expectations in terms of running a competitive program, and that he exceeded expectations in terms of “student athlete welfare (graduate players, internships/shadowing, opioids, Title IX)” and in recruiting.

That said, he listed “Title IX issue” and “Opioid Issue” among the top challenges he faced in 2017-18, along with “Social Media” and “Always losing quality student athletes and leaders on the team.” He wrote that his goal going into 2018-19 was “to promote a culture that is well defined and very clear” and “to make sure that all coaches and staff are aligned and expressing the same message to their players.”

During his press conference at Big Ten Media Days in July, Meyer said that Ohio State’s “entire policy has changed” in regards to opioid use, and that players are no longer given “a large quantity of painkillers.” Ohio State director of player development Ryan Stamper told Eleven Warriors in an interview in June that the issues of opioid and drug abuse were addressed this past spring as part of the Real Life Wednesday.

Gene Smith said in his comments on Meyer’s 2017-18 performance review that “the culture of the football program continued to improve under Meyer’s leadership. Behavior of each student contributed to a highly positive culture.”

In the “key areas or priorities for growth” section of the performance review, Gene Smith wrote that Meyer should “continue to manage risk areas – personnel management” and that “coaches and staff, along with players, need to continue to be aligned with expectations.”

Overall, Smith assessed that Meyer “exceeds expectations” in his overall rating for 2017-18.

Zach Smith fired for "cumulative reasons"

The documents released on Tuesday show a conversation between Urban Meyer and his agent, Trace Armstrong, regarding Meyer's firing of Zach Smith.

In that conversation, Meyer tells Armstrong that he believes all the allegations against Smith will be "legally dropped" and that "he was fired for cumulative reasons," but that he would not share that with the media.

Text Conversation

The takeaway is that Smith was not fired for alleged domestic abuse or any one particular incident, but for a pattern of behavior, and Meyer did not want to discuss that publicly.

It seems, as Meyer said at the press conference where his suspension was announced, the restraining order placed against Smith was just the final straw.

The coaches' manual

Also among the documents released were the 2013 and 2014 coaches' manuals (at the bottom of this PDF), included to highlight the clause Urban Meyer added after Zach Smith's strip club incident in May of 2014. 

A "morality clause" was added to the 2014 manual, stating that coaches are to "avoid strip clubs or venues that would embarrass The Ohio State University."

"You are public figures and your conduct is scrutinized and you are held to a higher standard," the clause continues. "No pornography is allowed on any university issued computer, phone, iPad, etc..."

The entire manual, not just that clause, was made public, and it features quite a few interesting points and guidelines.

  • Coaches are not to wear jeans in the office. "NO Jeans," the manual said.
  • Coaches are supposed to have correct and current information on all of their players at any given time. "Always carry up-to-date info on your players (Phone #s, academic info, family, girlfriend info...)
  • Assistant coaches are to value former players when they return, even if that means stopping a meeting to address them. "Former players– Stop Meetings and introduce/welcome."
  • Coaches are to value academics. "you are personally responsible to see that each of your players received their degree."
  • "Treat players like your own son."
  • "Number One Priority of Staff. Recruit every day!"
  • "Never put the Head Coach or another Assistant Coach in a compromising situation with regards to discipline."
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